Have you ever seen a piece of art in a gallery or museum and thought, “I could have done that?” Frequently and often, I make that remark within earshot of a wise friend who retorts, “But you didn’t!”
Just because something seems simple or obvious doesn’t mean that it is. And while the finished product may seem unremarkable, the initiative to make it is what counts. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!
Similarly, people often walk into a space and say, “I could have designed this,” particularly if the products used are recognizable from familiar sources – say Pottery Barn or Ikea. Yet the same response holds true in this scenario as well: “But you didn’t!”
Often, some of the very best design or architecture is well done because it looks effortless, simple and yes, perhaps obvious. Without knowing the background of the clients, designer, the direction given to the designer or the budget, it is presumptuous to suggest that something is simple or easy to do just because the resources used are available to the public.
The design industry had maintained a certain allure for many decades by utilizing sources that were available only to qualified design professionals. There still are many stores, workshops and studios that will only (or at least truly prefer to) work with design professionals because it is easier to do so. They would rather have orders placed for custom products and services by people who understand what they are asking for, know how to ask for it and can envision the outcome.
This is vastly different from the retail model, which usually has ready-made product that can be viewed and acquired on the spot. Unless the merchandise is damaged in transit or while being delivered, the buyer gets what he sees. This is not the case with custom orders, which take time and vision in order to be placed and received.
So for a variety of reasons, such as timeliness, cost and certainty of what is being purchased, design professionals and consumers increasingly prefer retail sources for interior design projects.
Here’s the rub: Just because a consumer can buy an item from a store doesn’t mean that they would have selected it or paired it in the way that a designer would. Therefore, the end result of a project – whether sourced from all retail stores or a combination of retail and custom sources – is neither easy nor obvious, though it may seem that way.
If we can agree on the preceding points, then the natural extension of this is design fees and pricing. There are many ways in which a design professional can charge for their services, from a percentage of an entire project, to time and materials, to cost plus merchandise and so on. Any option that utilizes a mark-up on a designer’s best net cost is entirely reasonable. That means if the source is Williams-Sonoma and the product is $1,000 less a 10 percent discount to the designer, and then a 35 percent mark-up is applied, the final cost is $1,215 (plus tax). It doesn’t matter that a consumer can walk in and buy the product for $1,000 – they didn’t. The $215 is the service charge that covers creative talent, selection time, placement in the home and whatever is agreed upon.
Remember, everything is agreed upon in advance, and as a customer of a design professional, your job is to give direction, provide feedback, write the checks and then get out of the way and just enjoy the process and the end result! Period.
Lloyd Princeton is a business consultant and motivational speaker devoted to interior design and architecture. Princeton frequently speaks in North America and has lectured internationally. For more, visit www.dmcnyc.com and www.imatchdesigners.com.